Installing a fence along the edges of your property is one of the most common ways to create a solid boundary. A lot of people also use fences to separate different areas of the property and add aesthetic value. But fences don’t always come cheap so you’re probably looking for something that’ll stand the test of time. So, how long does a fence last?
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What’s The Average Lifespan Of A Fence?
How long a fence lasts really does depend on several factors. For example, some materials are a lot more durable and hard wearing than others so for example, if you buy a fence made from vinyl, you could expect it to last much longer than a timber fence.
That said, wooden fences are pretty durable but a lot of how long they last comes down to how well you look after them. It’s the same as with anything, if you perform regular maintenance, you’re always going to have a fence that lasts longer than if you just leave it standing there and offer it no attention.
But of course, different materials also require different levels of maintenance. Something like vinyl or aluminium won’t need as much TLC as the timber options. It all comes down to the look you want to go for and how much work you’re willing to put in.
Types Of Fence Materials And Their Longevity
As I have discussed, fences can be made from all kinds of materials. There are pros and cons to each but this is something I’ll talk about in more depth another time. For now, let’s take a look at the factors that affect the longevity of the fence and how long each material will last.
There are several different types of wooden fence materials but in the main cedar and pressure treated wood are the most common options. Let’s take a look at what to expect from each.
Pressure Treated Wood
One of the great things about pressure treated wood is that it’s really resistant to the elements thanks to the treatment it undergoes. What’s more, compared to cedar fencing, it’s far more affordable but you still get that lovely, natural aesthetic value.
However, I should point out that you’ll probably need to do some low level cleaning of the fence if you want it to remain looking great. But generally speaking, with low maintenance, you can expect your pressure treated wooden fence to last for up to 20 years. You wouldn’t expect it to deteriorate significantly before at least 12 years and it’s usually not until 15 years after installation that you’ll really start to notice problems.
These problems can include things like the material splitting or issues with rot. Yes, these are things that the wood has been treated to resist and you can continue treating it to improve its longevity but being a natural material, it has to give up the ghost at some point.
Just like pressure treated wooden fences, a cedar fence will normally last between ten and twenty years. Of course, how well you take care of the fence and the level of maintenance you perform is going to impact this.
The great thing about cedar fencing is that it’s incredibly durable and also very attractive. You will also need to think about the local climate. If you live somewhere where there’s a lot of moisture in the air or heavy rainfall, this is going to up the amount of care the fence needs and decrease its lifespan.
Vinyl fences are one of the longest lasting out there and are incredibly strong and durable. If you’re looking for a fence that’ll really stand the test of time but that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, then you’ll probably want to consider vinyl.
However, I have to throw in there that, while there are a good range of colour and style options, these fences don’t hold the same aesthetic value as timber fences. That said, in terms of longevity, they’re clear winners with some vinyl fences lasting more than half a century!
Now, I just need to make it clear that this level of longevity will rely on you taking care of the fence but as I mentioned, they’re very low maintenance. The most you’ll probably need to do is to clean the fence.
Aluminium fences are, without a doubt, the most durable on the market. In many cases, these robust fences will far outlast the 50 year mark. What’s more, they require little to no maintenance and have a pleasing visual appeal.
The great thing about this material is that it’s not prone to mould and rot like wood as it’s totally impermeable. It’s also really resistant to dirt so it won’t need as regular cleaning as something like vinyl.
How To Make Your Fence Last Longer
There is a limit to how long a fence will last. Over time, materials succumb to damage from the elements and the environment and this isn’t something that you’ll be able to change. However, there are some things you can do to make sure that you get the best lifespan out of your fence because, after all, they’re not the cheapest things in the world to install.
I’ve already talked about the material options for fencing in the previous section of this article so I’ll keep this short and to the point.
You need to think about the strength and durability of a material as well as how the local conditions are going to affect this. The more a fence can resist things like moisture, dirt and other factors, the longer it will last.
Unless you have some seriously good experience at fence installation then leave it to the professionals. Yes, this is going to incur additional costs but that doesn’t mean it’s not a wise investment.
Having a pro install your fence will ensure it’s as durable, long lasting and attractive as possible. Even with all the will in the world, fencing isn’t a DIY project that just anyone can take on.
Inspect Your Fence
I realise that we all have a lot of responsibilities taking care of our gardens already, not to mention things like household chores, work, children and social responsibilities. So adding something else into the mix can be a pain but it’s worth sparing the few minutes it takes to regularly inspect your fencing for damage.
Doing this will ensure that you notice any problems before they have the chance to get out of control. Pay close attention to things like pest infestation, broken posts or panels, rot and anything else that might become more serious over time.
I’ve stressed the importance of fence maintenance throughout this article and I’m going to do it again. If you buy and install a fence and just leave it to the elements, it’s never going to last as long. Even something as seemingly harmless as dirt can be an issue. Many people think that dirt and grime are purely aesthetic problems but when left to build up, they can reduce the lifespan of the fence. So make sure to keep things clean.
On top of that, you must make sure that you apply treatments to wooden fences to improve their ability to resist rot and mould.
If you notice any damage then take the time to perform repairs as quickly as possible. Not doing so will only exacerbate the problem and that’s not what you want.
Involve Your Neighbours
Now, this can be a tricky situation in some cases because not everyone gets along with their neighbours. Moreover, when you install a fence on your boundary, it’s your responsibility to take care of it and that includes on your neighbours side. But when both sides of the fence are equally well maintained, this is going to improve its overall lifespan.
So, you really have two options. If you are on good terms with your neighbours then you might ask them to take care of their side of the fence. You could offer to cover any costs such as the price of wood stain but ask them to do the work. They’ll likely oblige because they’ll want their side of the fence to look good too.
Alternatively, if you and your neighbours aren’t on such good terms, you might need to ask them to let you know if there is any damage and you will fix the problem yourself. It’ll save them having to do you the ‘favour’ of maintaining their side but you’ll still be able to keep up the maintenance.
Controlling Moisture Damage
One of the biggest problems for owners of wooden fences is moisture. Not only can it create problems with rot and mould but it is also an open invitation to pests and insects. It’s the last thing you want.
However, while you won’t be able to totally protect your fence from moisture because of things like rainfall, you can improve the level of protection through proper drainage and being mindful of where you put your garden plants. Let me explain a little more.
Drainage is essential in the outdoor areas of your property but a lot of people neglect the area around their fences. By placing just a few inches of gravel underneath the fence, you will drastically improve drainage so the base of the fence won’t be sitting in moisture all the time. Of course, you can also install concrete base boards along the bottom of the fence to raise the wood off the ground.
I’d also recommend looking at where you’re placing your foliage. Plants naturally contain a lot of moisture and if you put them too close to the fence, this is going to transfer and, over time, will cause problems. Where possible, keep your plants from touching the fence to improve its longevity.
Fences are an integral part of any outdoor space but some materials are more durable than others and this is something you’ll need to consider when installing a new fence.
While wooden fences are potentially the most attractive, they aren’t the longest lasting. Generally speaking, you’ll get a couple of decades maximum out of a wooden fence. On the other hand, things like aluminium and vinyl can be incredibly long lasting, even beyond 50 years.
But keep in mind that, no matter what fence material you go for, without regular care, you’ll never achieve the maximum lifespan.